Courtesy: UVa Sports Information
URBANA, Ill. – The Virginia men's tennis team advanced to the NCAA Tournament final for the third consecutive year, downing Georgia 4-1 in a semifinal match Monday at a windy Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex. The second-seeded Cavaliers (29-0) will meet top-seeded UCLA (29-1) in Tuesday's championship match.
"It was an unbelievable match and I am certainly proud of our guys to persevere," said head coach Brian Boland. "Give a lot of credit to Georgia, they played a great match. They fought all the way to the end. Our guys were resilient and were able to finish. It was a great atmosphere to play and a big thanks to our fans who came out here to support us. It felt like we were playing at home today."
The Cavaliers took a 1-0 lead by winning the doubles point for the 27th time in 29 matches this season. Alex Domijan (Wesley Chapel, Fla.) and Mitchell Frank (Annandale, Va.) got Virginia on the board with an 8-3 victory at No. 2 over Nathan Pasha and Garrett Brasseaux. At No. 3, Justin Shane (Falls Church, Va.) and Julen Uriguen (Guatemala City, Guatemala) rallied from an early 3-0 deficit to win eight of the next nine games, defeating Eric Diaz and Marco Nunez 8-4 to clinch the point.
"We got off to a rough start in doubles," said Boland. "We rebounded really well at No. 3 and kept our lead at No. 2 and were able to get that point. It turned out to be a pretty important one."
In singles, the Cavaliers took four of the six first sets, but it was Georgia who captured the first match off the courts. At No. 1, Ben Wagland topped Jarmere Jenkins (College Park, Ga.) 7-5, 6-3 to even the score at 1-1. Virginia retook the lead as Frank completed a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Austin Smith at No. 3 singles. The advantage stretched to 3-1 as Uriguen defeated Nunez 6-3, 7-5 at No. 6 singles.
The final three matches came down to a decisive third set. At No. 2, Domijan rallied from losing the first set to force a third set against Pasha. Domijan went up an early break in the final set only to see Pasha break back to even the set at 4-4. In the ensuing game, Domijan took advantage of three Pasha double faults to break back and allow him to serve for the match. He held his serve at love to clinch the 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory and send the Cavaliers into the final.
"It was a really tough match as conditions were rough for both teams," said Domijan. "My match was back-and-forth the whole time. I tried to play more aggressively after losing the first set because I felt like he was dictating the points. Every time I stepped up my game, it seemed like I was winning, so I tried to keep that going."
For the third straight year, the Cavaliers will meet a team from Los Angeles in the final. Virginia will look to win its first NCAA Championship when it meets UCLA, after falling to USC in the 2011 and 2012 finals. The Cavaliers and Bruins haven't met since a 4-2 Virginia victory in the 2010 NCAA quarterfinals in Athens, Ga.
"We are so happy to have a chance to play for a national championship," said Boland. "It is an opportunity and we are looking forward to it. I think the experience our guys have gotten on that stage the last two years will help us. They know what to expect and that can only be a benefit."
The Virginia-UCLA final will begin at 1 p.m. CT (2 p.m. ET) at the Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex. The match will be webcast live on NCAA.com.